Three years ago, in September 2020, the German government proposed the creation of a new European network of cross-border long distance railway passenger services.  It dubbed it TEE 2.0.  The initial fanfare provided a valuable impulse for transport ministries across Europe to think about what might best be achieved.  Much of this exploratory work has been done through the Platform on the development of International Passenger Rail, led by the Netherlands and Austria.  Although intergovernmental with participation by Norway, Switzerland and the UK as well as most EU member states and the EU institutions, it is advised by a Sector Mirror Group, co-chaired by EPF and CER.

One of the early tangible outcomes is a working group of transport ministry representatives and infrastructure managers from the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Hungary.  It has developed a potential ten-year strategy for the Amsterdam-Frankfurt-München-Wien-Budapest corridor.  The governments are now consulting stakeholders, including EPF, on the working group’s proposals.

The working group examined a number of service improvement scenarios and found them all likely to be viable, projecting a substantial growth in demand and modal shift from air to rail.  In the shorter-term the group foresees the possibility of launching 1-3 daily direct services between Amsterdam and München and extending night services to Budapest/Milano.  This can be done by combining pathing slots and extending routes, without the immediate need for major infrastructure enhancements.

A second phase, which probably couldn’t be delivered before 2030 due to the need to deliver more significant infrastructure enhancements, anticipates higher frequency Netherlands-Ruhn-Rhein services and the addition of longer distance services to Austria serving several sub-markets en route.

After consulting its member associations, EPF broadly welcomed the strategy.  It warned that it could be disrupted by provisional plans for a sequence of temporary route closures on the vital high performance corridors in Germany. We made a number of detailed observations on service frequencies and potential destinations to which core services might be extended.  Additionally, we emphasised the importance of an wholistic approach to these developments: hub stations need to be developed through which systematic connectivity to the wider public transport network is ensured.

Finally, EPF emphasised that a close understanding of passengers’ needs and aspirations is likely to be crucial to the success of new projects such as this.  It therefore offered continuing close engagement with cross-border service development work of this sort.

Christopher Irwin, Board Member EPF